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Masters of Photography

Lesson 11 of 25

Street Photography: Spontaneous Moments

Steve McCurry

Masters of Photography

Steve McCurry

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Lesson Info

11. Street Photography: Spontaneous Moments


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Meet Your Master Duration:00:47
2 The Early Years Duration:08:30
3 Going To War Duration:08:03
4 Influences: Cartier-Bresson Duration:08:29
5 Other Influences Duration:08:06
6 Tell A Story Duration:12:04
7 Conflict Zones Duration:14:13
8 Finding Subjects And Stories Duration:13:16
9 Choosing The Light Duration:12:55
15 Portraiture - 9 Key Tips Duration:08:27
17 Photographing Children Duration:12:37
18 The Afghan Girl Duration:05:59
19 Using Juxtaposition Duration:06:37
20 Landscape Duration:10:14
21 Composition Duration:06:52
22 Cityscapes Duration:08:20
23 Shoot In All Weather Duration:06:39
25 Making Pictures For A Living Duration:02:20

Lesson Info

Street Photography: Spontaneous Moments

(thoughtful music) The best pictures are ones that tell a story. That take us on a journey. Perhaps an inward that journey that evoke some emotion, that make us laugh or make us cry but something that grabs us and something that burns into our memory. Something we wanna come back to. It's not a picture that changes you. You wanna have something, a photograph that really is, again tells some incredible story about life. It could be a story that reminds us about something. It could be a picture of dogs on the street. (thoughtful music) One of the most heartbreaking issues I've witnessed in my travels is child labor. I'm often so astonished that you'll have a 12-year-old boy or girl who's working in a restaurant or in a factory and this, they're often working sometimes 10, 12 hours a day and you just can't imagine, you can't believe that they're you know, this is happening and that their childhood, what children are supposed to be doing is being robbed from them and they're not being ab...

le to live a normal, healthy life. I made this one picture of a boy who must've been not more than 12 years old working in a candy factory and you can see that he's there, there was two adult men and they're doing some operation and they got there at five o'clock in the morning and he's working with this sort of very heavy hard work for eight hours a day, maybe longer and you just imagine, he's not going to school, his young little body can barely keep up with their heavy load and it's just not the way we wanna, not the kind of world we wanna live in. (thoughtful music) I think the most important thing in covering important stories, issues that you care about is to go into a situation with an open mind, with respect and not to be too judgmental about the people. I mean, in the case of child labor this has been going on for, since the beginning of time. So often children were required to go out and tend the animals, or flocks of sheep or whatever and work in the fields and they didn't go to school. So this is something which is, this is not new. (thoughtful music) When I was about 12 years old I saw this incredible photo essay in Life Magazine about the monsoon in India which is this incredible weather system which probably affects half the world and the monsoon is this heavy rain which comes seasonally and it helps grow crops, helps renew life. Provides water for billions of people. So I was at this flooded village one morning and the people had to move around the village, mostly up to their waist in water because there was no place to go. They had to just live their, have to continue to live their lives in this monsoon flood and I saw this one man coming down the street towards us with his sewing machine which he had salvaged from his shop. It was rusted, it was probably ruined. So as he was coming towards me, I started to prepare myself and in doing so everybody around the street started to alert this man that oh, there's this foreigner, he's gonna take your picture. You know, smile for the camera or whatever. So this poor tailor who was probably self-conscious and embarrassed about you know, all these people shouting at him kinda had this sort of. Smile on his face which is sort of counterintuitive to having you know, your life, your profession come crashing to an end with this destroyed machine. So as he kinda passed my camera I photographed him with the sewing machine on his shoulder. In a way it's, to me it talks a little bit about the resilience, about the fortitude, about people having to make do in bad situations and the resilience of people and of human nature and against all odds we find some kind of strength to kind of power through everything. Yet as you look at this picture don't forget that the photographer, meaning me had to actually be in water as well. I spend two or three days up to my waist in water walking around this town all day long. I tried at first to photograph from a boat which didn't quite work. I couldn't quite position myself with the boat. Then I tried these high fishing boots which came up to my chest but they didn't work either because the water actually ended up getting inside the boots so in the end, like with the other people in the town I actually had to jump in and actually just be in the water with them which actually was the best way to work because we were kind of all in this sort of dirty, muck together and people realized that I was kinda one of them. I think the greatest lesson I had in taking that picture was you have to be ready and prepared at all times. Have your you know, operating the camera should be second nature. You shouldn't even have to kinda think about it. As this man came towards me, despite all the people shouting around I just stayed on the picture. I figured, you know I was trying to, I wasn't really thinking anything more than, how can I get this picture to focus and am I getting the framing right? But it was such an incredible sight of this poor tailor with his sewing machine perched on his shoulder up to his, almost his head in water. It was just an incredible image and I just knew I had to try and capture it. (thoughtful music) So I photographed this girl in her pink dress up to her waist in water. She was leaning on her, the white picket fence and there was this kinda green algae which had formed on the top of the water which I thought was a wonderful sort of color. You know, comparison or complementary colors and she you know, everybody in the neighborhood had had nowhere to go. They had to stay in this neighborhood, in this flooded area. I wanted to photograph in several different ways and I placed her in several different places in the frame and I even shot some verticals. I knew that this was one of the better pictures I had made that day and I wanted to make sure I got it right and so I wanted to take my time. So I spent a minute or two with her and made a few different options. Rather than just take, like one or two frames. I took several. It's a very incongruous scene in the sense that she's, seems very relaxed, very much at ease despite the fact that she is up to her waist in water but this village had been under water for days and they had become accustomed to living their lives in this water and I, I too wandered in this water for the whole time I was there because there was no escaping it but I thought it was a very successful portrait. Kind of an environmental portrait showing her and then showing the environment and showing what it's like to live in a monsoon, in that part of the world. (thoughtful music) There's so many cultural traditions which I've photographed over the years. Many have disappeared. Some are now changed dramatically. I think it's important to have a memory of these cultural phenomenons, these incredible events that take place. In many cases they're just not gonna be with us and the only record we're gonna have of these events are gonna be photographs. I photographed these men in Niger performing this sort of, marriage rite of passage event. And it was, I was literally driving down the road in Niger and we suddenly saw these people off on the side of the road and we stopped to see what was happening and this was like a festival where these men were trying to, I would say, lure or perform for the young girls of the village and this was a tradition that had gone for eons. Eventually sometimes these events, these cultural events end up disappearing and end up being performed in a hotel lobby as a cultural show and so to actually see these things, to see these events in real time happening naturally is incredible. (thoughtful music) One of the great lessons I've learned in photography is that the journey is always more important than the actual destination. I photographed this picture in India in of some women huddled together in a dust storm waiting for this, very strong wind blowing a lot of dust and sand and they huddled together, started to sing and I saw them off in the field as I was driving by and my first inclination was just to roll the windows up and kinda power through the storm but then I realized that wait a minute, this is a, this is an incredible opportunity with this very dramatic dust storm so I stopped the car, jumped out, ran across this field and started photographing these women who were completely oblivious to my being there. I made maybe 20 exposures and then the wind stopped, the dust storm was over and they went back to work and the picture was over but fortunately I was able to have the presence of mind to stop even though we were on our journey to this destination which in the end, this picture become much more important than anything we did at the destination when we got there. One of my, one of my concerns in taking this picture was that, you know, the sand was gonna get inside the camera and perhaps spoil the lens or whatever and I think there are times in your photography when you sort of have to throw all caution to the wind and say you know what, this picture is so important that I'm just gonna go for it. I'm gonna pull all the stops out and I'll let the chips fall where they may and I just, I can't let this opportunity slip away. You just don't wanna be timid when great pictures are there in front of you. (thoughtful music) I'd like to talk about this picture I made in Old Dehli Railway Station one morning. I got to the station, not the actually, to photograph specifically but to take a train to Calcutta. So when I was there on the platform waiting for my train to arrive, I had my camera and I started photographing passengers waiting for their trains and it was just after sunrise and there were these amazing shadows being cast on the floor and I just started photographing and so you know, you should always take every opportunity to work. I hadn't gone there specifically to take pictures of the station but I saw these incredible shadows and I just, I made a few pictures and I love the composition, the way you have the man reading the newspaper, lights coming through it and then these figures walking, casting these really long shadows on the station floor. So I think it works really well as a kind of, early kind of a high contrast, early morning picture. I think there's never a situation where you don't wanna take a picture, you shouldn't take a picture. The only time you would hold back from taking a picture would be if you're disrespecting somebody or you feel that you're invading somebody's privacy. You don't wanna create bad karma, you don't wanna create ill will. You don't wanna upset people. I think that's the kinda the line you have to respect but I never censor myself I never, I always make the picture and then decide later if it was the right thing to do but again, you have to have that baseline. You don't wanna be disrespectful, that's really never a good thing.

Class Description

Steve McCurry has been one of the most important voices in contemporary photography for more than thirty years. Masters of Photography is bringing Steve’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his iconic career. Steve will teach how to:

  • Find a subject to photograph
  • How to shoot in all types of weather condition
  • Understand the light at different times of day
  • Improve your compositional skills
  • Blend into the environment so that you can capture impactful street images
  • Use his 8 key tips in order to capture the best portraits

Watch and learn with Steve as you accompany him through the fishing villages of Portugal and in the vibrant streets of Havana. See for yourself how he creates images, as he shares ideas and experiences, and explains how to make great photographs. Steve will also suggest some projects for you to try for yourself.

You can use any device from camera phone to’s all about the image and storytelling.


Adriana L-G

For me this is not a class, is more the photographer talking about his photos and his experience. It is a little repetitive but I enjoyed. From Masters of Photography I loved Joel Meyerowitz's class and I recommend it strongly. In case you need to choose.